USC Digital Folklore Archives / Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’
Festival
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Novenas

Novenas 9 days before Christmas, novenas happen. They are a custom done at home in Columbia in which family gets together and has potluck style meals as well as praying together. The meals usually consist of home grown fruits as well as white meats. The Novenas, are usually more prayer oriented, the potluck tradition just grew as a well-mannered custom. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This tradition kind of reminds me of when someone dies, you light a candle for 9 days as well as praying together with family and sharing potluck meals.

Customs
Foodways
general
Gestures
Holidays
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Tradition of Gift Giving- Christmas (Cali, Colombia)

During Christmas, it is, really common for people to make a lot of breads and pastries in Columbia to just give to surrounding neighbors. The more popular treats would be empanadas which are a pastry in which the inside is filled with different type of sweet pastes. The sweet pastries are a form of telling your neighbors to enjoy the festivities and have a great time, basically a good omen for the holidays. Alex is a Colombian native who immigrated here when he was just a little boy. His family left Columbia in response to all the violence that was emitting from Pablo Escobar’s reign of terror. In order to keep his family traditions alive, his parents constantly told him about the vast events and beauty of his homeland and people. This seems like a great way to start the holidays with gifts, as how usual Christmas goes in the United States.

Childhood
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Lizard Burial

My informant as a little boy would perform a ritual. The children of the village used to capture and kill a lizard. Then they would  perform a death ceremony. There was about 20 kids involved. They would bury the lizard and start praying.

“Ya hardon eska werka, mertak amya mabti’shd”, which translates to :

All you lizard, please portray good, because your wife is blind and cannot see at times.

They would have sticks and be beating it against the ground while saying the chant. Afterwards they would go home.There was nothing else to do so they created their own rituals.

My informant is an immigrant from Lebanon. He lived in a small town called Yaroun. Hid family was very poor and lived in a rural area. We shared the folklore over some food in his house.

The interesting part of this piece is the creativity children have. They created there own ritual in to keep from boredom. my informant at first did not want to tell this piece of folklore out of embarrassment but eventually gave in.

Initiations
Protection
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Breaking of the Glass

Nationality: American

Primary Language: English

Other Language(s): None

Age: 62

Residence: New York City, USA

Performance Date: April 8, 2017 (Skype)

 

Alan is a 62 year old man, born and raised in New Jersey who is a 2nd Generation American whose ancestry is Austrian and Russian.

 

Interviewer: Good Evening. When I asked you about Jewish Wedding Traditions, you told me about your personal experiences with that of Breaking of the Glass. Can you explain further.

 

Informant: I would be very happy to do this. I remember when I was eight years old at my Uncle Jerrys wedding that I was the ring boy.  It was a traditional Jewish Wedding and Uncle Jerry and his bride stood under a tent called a Chuppah. I later learned about what the meaning was. I am not going to get into ah here…you can read all about it online.  It is well documented. So anyway, getting back to the breaking of the glass.  So when my job as ring boy was over, the ceremony was ending and then um, Uncle Jerry stomped on this white cloth on the floor and then I heard this sound which sounded, um like glass breaking. Then all the crowd of people at the wedding shouted. At the time I didn’t know what they shouted, however I would latter learn it was Mazel Tov, um which, I mean is a Jewish word for good luck.  At that moment I was so taken by how happy the people were and I thought the glass breaking caused everyone to become so happy.  I remember when everyone left where the wedding ceremony took place I went and very carefully to pick the white cloth up containing the glass. I remember carrying this cloth with the glass like it was the most valuable thing I ever held.  Anyway after everyone ate, I found Uncle Jerry and his new bride Audrey, who later divorced, and I presented the glass in the cloth.  They asked me what this was and as typical eight year said don’t you remember it is the glass you broke and then everyone cheered.  I um then told them that I thought you might want to keep the glass to remind you of the happy times. They looked puzzled and then laughed and took the glass and went on talking to other guests. Upon later learning of their divorce many years later and um speaking to Uncle Jerry I mentioned that the glass didn’t bring them any happy memories. He looked at me like he didn’t understand what the heck I was talking about.

 

As I got older I learned and understood more about Judaism I learned about the meaning of the glass breaking was all about.  There are a lot of interpretations about this, but one fact which is agreed that it commemorates uh the destruction and, sorry, destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  Of course all the sorrows that brought but also remember for the wedding aspect of this tradition that you know that there will be good and happy times. Other sects of Judaism have other beliefs as well and it is open to many different um shall we say schools of thoughts. Such as the couple comes together by the smashing of the separate bonds or another is the reuniting of the two souls as ah lifelong mates.  I always felt that it was a beautiful thing in that it announces to the world the couple’s union as husband and wife and announces the journey in life as one united. I am very sorry I am going on and on.

 

Interviewer:  No that’s OK. This is a great story, please.

 

Informant: OK then. Glad you are still interested. So oh where, oh let me see, yes, so I liked this tradition so much that at every Jewish Wedding that I attended that I would collect the glass, this time being smarted about things and carry a plastic zip lock bag, so to keep everything intact. Then I would present it to the couple afterwards and explain what I told you before and all the time the couple was thrilled to have it.  I vowed that when I got married that I would save my glass and if I could turn it into something which could be displayed.

 

Interviewer: What does this piece mean to you?

 

Informant: While this meaning of the tradition of the glass breaking has multiple other meanings other than the one everyone agrees about the destruction of the temple, the meaning for me always holds great optimism about a couple coming together to hopefully live a joyous and loving life together.

 

Thoughts about the piece:

A surprising number of manufacturers create vessels for this ceremony of destruction, similar to inexpensive plates sold to be broken at Greek weddings. Another Jewish fable about remembrance; two souls reunited as one, at: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/542288/jewish/Why-Break-a-Glass-at-a-Wedding.htm?gclid=CJyfvcSzpNMCFUSBswody4QOww

Some other Jewish wedding day traditions at: https://www.theknot.com/content/jewish-wedding-ceremony-rituals

 

 

 

Rituals, festivals, holidays

USC Trojan Knights Cheer

S-O-U-T-HERN  C-A-L-I-FORNIA

Southern! Califorrrrnia!

Fight On!

 

Interviewer: What is being performed?

 

Informant: A Cheer by Rafael Souza. The Hammer Drop, one person yells and the others join and spell out Southern California.

 

Interviewer: What is the background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?

 

Informant: It is a game day ritual for USC Trojan Knights.

 

Interviewer: What country and what region of that country are you from?

 

Informant: USC Traditions

 

Interviewer: Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?

 

Informant: Trojan Knights

 

Interviewer: Where did you first hear the story?

 

Informant: When I went to my first game day

 

Interviewer: What do you think the origins of this story might be?

 

Informant: Spirited USC students probably

 

Interviewer: What does it mean to you?

 

Informant: A lot as a new knight

 

Context of the performance- classmate interview

 

Thoughts about the piece- Trojan Knights are a USC service and spirit organization founded in 1921. See  https://www.trojanknights.org/  to learn about other TK traditions including Tommy Watch, Card Stunts and the Victory Bell. As a USC freshman, I don’t know many details about the mysterious TK fraternity type club but appreciate their traditions that enhance school spirit, especially during football season.

Folk Beliefs
general
Holidays
Protection

Spare Change in a Purse

Informant: The informant is a twenty-two-year-old named Samantha. She graduated from Providence College last year and is currently working in New York City as an Advertising Sales Assistant for VERANDA Magazine. She lives in Yonkers, New York with her parents and has lived there for her whole life. She is of Italian, English, and Russian descent.

Context of the Performance: We sat next to each other on the living room floor at her house in Yonkers, New York during my spring break from college.

Original Script:

Informant: I learned that whenever I would give a wallet or handbag as a present, I’d have to put a few coins inside. This represents the idea that that the person receiving the gift will always have money in his or her bag or wallet. My mother taught me this when I was little because every bag or wallet she gave me contained spare change.

Interviewer: Why do you like this piece of folklore?

Informant: I like this idea because it’s a really nice gesture. When you give a gift to somebody, it shows that you are wishing that person to never be without money. Following this makes me feel good. I love wishing luck for others, especially people I love, and I usually only give these nice gifts to people I really care about.

Personal Thoughts: I enjoyed learning about this piece because it promotes a sense of selflessness. Not only is someone giving a gift, but they are also providing the receiver with what they think is good luck. This is interesting because typically, at least in most folklore I’ve heard to do with good luck, people act in a way to give themselves good luck. In this gift-giving, people seek to give others good luck, which is rather unique.

general
Rituals, festivals, holidays

The Mendyke Open

Context: I collected this from a friend on a trip over Spring Break, after he’d heard me talking about folklore with another friend I was collecting from.

Background: This is an annual gathering that my friend’s family holds. Below is a story illustrating the type of events that happens at these gatherings.

Dialogue: My great-grandfather, before he died… Uh, eventually he was one of the oldest people at these gatherings, and… and um, as I mentioned there were these golf courses and so, they’d basically all get together and play golf, um… So, at one point, my great grandfather decided to— that he’d go play a round. Now, at this point he was, like, in his 90s, he was pretty much blind, pretty much deaf, um… So he gets up to the golf course, he takes the golf, uh, the, the golf club, and he starts aiming the golf ball, but… it seems to be in the complete opposite direction, or like a completely different direction than where the hole is, and so everyone is just, they start yelling, “No, not that way, the other way! That way!” And he just shoos them off, and, uh, everyone’s like, “Okay, I guess he’s crazy, just let him be.” So, he swings, er, he holds it up, he swings, and hits… and a hole in one!

Analysis: The story above isn’t something that my friend himself witness, but something he’d been told by other family members. Because of this, the story feels more like an example of the family’s camaraderie, and how them coming together brings about exciting events. It’s more about the experience of being together as a family than any actually miraculous golf swing that could happen.

Holidays

Christmas Time Nut Tradition

Informant:

Daniel is a first year analyst at a prominent Manhattan based investment bank. He grew up in Northern California from a predominantly irish background

Piece:

“Each year around Christmas time my grandfather would take us to this little nut shop in San Francisco. The shop was extremely small and barely had enough room for two people to fit between the door and the giant glass case of nuts. It was run by this tiny Russian lady who looked like she was birthed from a matryoshka doll.  We would always buy cashew butts, the broken pieces of the cashews, because they were much cheaper. But somehow a few full cashews always snuck into the bag. Those were the best nuts. Not cause they tasted better but cause they were special.

The shop closed and I’m pretty sure it’s a hat store now. But I always think about it whenever I have cashews.”

Collector’s thoughts:

The informant truly performed this piece of folklore when it was collected with large gesticulations and a more dramatic voice than normal. Additionally, the use of the specific russian word matryoshka is interesting because it is the russian word for what are commonly referred to as  russian nesting dolls in the United States. The informant has no russian heritage which adds to intrigue of where he learned this word and why he decided to use it when most of the americans to whom he was performing the piece were not aware of its meaning.

 

 

general
Life cycle
Old age
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Indian Cremation Ritual

Informant SM is a sophomore studying Biomedical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He is very passionate about philanthropy, specifically helping poorer parts of India and aspires to one day become a doctor. The informant tells me(AK) about an Indian tradition centered around cremation he is fond of and believes many Indian people practice.

SM: It is customary in Indian tradition to cremate someone’s body after they die. And then you take the ashes, and you put it in a place that’s very special to this person.

AK: Wow I think I’ve heard of something similar. What does this ritual mean to you?

SM: It’s a way of celebrating someone even after they have died.

AK: Where did you learn this ritual, and does your family practice it?

SM: I didn’t learn it from a specific person, but it’s just part of Indian culture. I haven’t had a chance to experience it because none of my relatives have died in my lifetime.

AK: Where would you want your ashes to be placed?

SM: Oh wow, that is a tough question (laughs). I guess I’d pick Mount Tambora, you can call it Mount Tam — in San Francisco because it’s this really beautiful hike, and it’s kind of the first hike I went on with my family. Yeah, I guess that’s where I would put mine.

I was definitely familiar with this ritual, but I had never heard the part about placing the ashes in the person’s favorite place. As I asked the question to my informant about where he would like his ashes placed, I began to think about how I would answer that question. It certainly is a very difficult question because it’s so difficult to determine someone’s favorite place. I feel like at this point in my life, I don’t really have a favorite place, but if I had to choose, I think I’d just pick my room in the house I grew up in.

 

Customs
Earth cycle
Rituals, festivals, holidays

Ramadan and the Ritual Celebration of Eid Alfutr

Note: The form of this submission includes the dialogue between the informant and I before the cutoff (as you’ll see if you scroll down), as well as my own thoughts and other notes on the piece after the cutoff. The italics within the dialogue between the informant and I (before the cutoff) is where and what kind of direction I offered the informant whilst collecting. 

Informant’s Background:

I’m from Riyadh, the capital city of Saudi Arabia.

Piece:

Ramadan is like a whole month where everyone just, they fast from like very early in the morning ‘til like early in the evening. So from, from the sunrise to sunset basically. And they fast from like eating – they don’t eat anything, they don’t drink anything. And it’s a very like spiritual month where you just have like a lot of like, you know, religious tv shows and songs and stuff like that.

And then, after the month is over- the first day of the following month- it’s like Christmas in Christianity, So it’s like a big event where everybody is celebrating the end of the month and uh, I think it’s very interesting because every family basically like… wait you’re a vegetarian right? So this is not happiness for you. Every family has to kill a sheep, just like one sheep, and it has a spiritual meaning and it’s like a sacrifice you do to God to show that you’re grateful that the month is over, that you’re alive and doing well, and just thankful for that month.

And your family particularly partake in this?

All families do, and what they do is that they take the, okay it’s like one animal that’s killed. Most people do it at home, you bring the animal alive and kill it. Which is kind of… as kids, you would see that and were just kind of shocked (ha ha). It happens every year. Sometimes you’re allowed to buy the animal and take it to a butcher shop or something like that and they would of the you know, the rest of the work. Then the meat is divided into three portions- one third goes to family itself, another third to neighbors and relatives, and you know other people around the neighborhood, and the third portion goes to poor people, you know people who can’t buy an animal or can’t do that. So… yeah I think that’s the biggest celebration maybe.

When you guys take the meat, how do you package it? And do you have a physical hand in distributing the meat to poor people? 

It’s cut and put into bags, and like freezers and stuff like that. And I remember when I was a kid, my mom would give me like a bunch of bags and she would say “go to that neighbor” or “that house and knock on the door and give them this meat.” And then my dad would take the rest and he would go to like poor neighborhoods and distribute the meat to the poor people there. Nowadays, even butcher shops will do that- they will give the family their portion and do the rest of it- distribute it to the poor people so that you have a more convenient ways of doing it.

Piece Background Information:

Informant already mentioned within their piece that they learned and practice Ramadan, as well as the ritual celebration of Eid Alfutr, due to the influence of his culture, parents, family, and school.

—————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Context of Performance:

In person, during the day, in the informant’s apartment adjacent to USC’s campus in Los Angeles.

Thoughts on Piece: 

Ramadan is celebrated in the ninth month of Islamic calendar, which sees each month’s beginning at the sighting of the full moon, thus making it an Earth cycle ritual. By fasting everyday from sunrise to sunset, Muslims and those partaking in this tradition are reminded of the suffering of the less fortunate in the world. This fasting emphasizes the Muslim ideal of strengthening their connection with Allah through exercising self control, thereby cleansing their minds, bodies, and spirits and also lends itself to this informant’s other accounts such as not believing in wearing a physical/tangible object for protection against the evil eye and instead focusing on the mind (see: The Evil/Bad Eye and Arab Folk Beliefs on Protection Against It).

I also found it interesting that the informant noted how the whole process of butchering the sacrifice and splitting up the portions of the meat has become a lot easier- butchers will handle not only the butchering, but the distribution as well. On the one hand, this probably gives more incentive to partake in the tradition each year, as it makes the ritual much simpler, but it is also important to note that it is as a result of modernity.

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